The shamans talk about ayni – which means an aligned and balanced relationship not just with yourself, but with others. ‘Others’ means not just other people, but also with the environment and the world, the visible and the invisible. Another way to look at ayni is the principle of reciprocity. Do we only take, or do we also give? Are we in the right balance?
One way to look at ayni is through gift giving. Like in the Andes, the Bhutanese have a similar principle of “what is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine.” In the Andes, even if you were to give some food or money to a less fortunate individual, it is ingrained in their psyche to return something to you reciprocally be the necklace off their neck. And it must be accepted as a gesture of reciprocity. It is through this reciprocal gesture of giving something for something that establishes a harmonious connection of energy. And when it is not honored, imbalance occurs.
One of the main ways the Q’ero shamans would reestablish balance is through prayer and ceremony. The shamans work predominantly with the invisible world of energy and spirits, as a way to offer gratitude or to seek forgiveness or to ask for blessings for themselves, their communities and also the land. It is an ongoing dialogue with the unseen worlds.
There is an undeniable micro-macro relationship between an individual stuck in their vicious cycles of negative self-talk, and also the destruction of Mother Earth around us. The shamans see one as a mirror of the other.
And so when we call on the four directions, and honor the Earth, and the power animals and the higher realms of the unseen, we are in fact calling on all the highest aspects of ourselves to become present. There can be no room for the controlling ego to pull us out of this harmonious union with Spirit.
So how do you get into ayni or a more aligned relationship with yourself?
First, we need to understand that modern culture prides itself on individualism and personal freedoms above the collective. There is a favoring of the personal over the transpersonal. The essence of ayni is bridging the two together, the internal and the external, the self and the community, the earth and the invisible realms.
True authentic self-expression in its highest function evolves from “look at me, I’m healing my traumatic past karmas” to “look at us, I’m creating a world where we can grow as one, I’m participating in my collective dharma.” It’s the upgrade from “I’m surviving as this singular soul” to “I’m thriving with my collective soul tribe” And the collective soul tribe doesn’t include just people, but also all beings, known and unknown, on the planet and beyond.
Authentic self expression is not indulgent and exclusive. It’s staying accountable and present to your collective responsibility to lift your tribe and the planet up.
The shamans say there are only two forces that are at play that bring us out of ayni – Fear and Envy.
Fear invokes internalized harm by projecting within ourselves. Envy stokes externalized harm by projecting onto others.
As my teacher loves to say on repeat, “the shamans say that evil doesn’t exist – it only exists in the heart of men – we live in a benign universe.”
FEAR – False Evidence Appearing as Real (karmic imprints, societal/cultural beliefs, the influence of media, conspiracy theories). Fear creeps in through the cracks of our inner shadow. And we all have shadows within. You can think of the shadows as the blindspots within us that we cannot see or refuse to see.
For example: There is universal fear of “I fear that I will die,” might manifest in someone becoming a hypochondriac, which then causes them to not take risk, therefore losing their sense of curiosity and wonderment. Or what about… “I will stay in the job I hate because it feels secure.” “I will stay in an abusive relationship with my family and with my partner because it’s familiar to me.” “I believe and do exactly what everyone and the government wants of me because I am a victim to everything around me instead of participating as a co-creator with life.”
Envy is the grass is greener disease – I am jealous they are doing better than me. They got that job that I wanted so bad, they got that relationship I wanted so bad. They have more money than me. I’m jealous that they get to have this wonderful experience. So some part of me wants to take that from them because I am lacking it. I wish I had it, but I don’t, so all I can do is project an energy of resentment – which is an attack energy. Even if it’s unintentional and you jokingly say, “I’m so jealous,” which is a phrase thrown about in casual conversations, it carries the seed of attack.
For example, during one of the covid lockdowns, my sister who lives in New York was telling me she was going to Mexico for a holiday while I was locked down in Australia. If I were to say I’m so jealous, I wish I could go – it would mean there’s a part of me that resists being in the present now. So the energy of I’m jealous is because I don’t want to be here in a politically and socially challenging time. It’s the energy of avoiding what’s real. And as a result, the part of me that would want to escape becomes an energetic missile, and launches at my sister, and it lodges in her as the seed of guilt. She then would feel guilty for enjoying her life.
It’s a different energy altogether if I were to say “You’re going to Mexico. I’m so excited and thrilled for you.” There is no envy, but only an energy of celebration.
This brings up another topic of the use of language as energy. Being impeccable in the way in which you choose and use words reflects your state of ayni with yourself and the world of spirit. How are you creating reality around you through your words? Are your words fueling more fear or more envy into the world?
Yes, it’s a trying time right now all around the world. But when is there ever not a trying time? This is what we signed up for as souls incarnating in a human experience. We elected to experience the density of earthly existence which comes with challenging obstacles, like a global pandemic, lockdowns and even oppressive governmental policies – so that we can come into the Truthful remembrance of who and what we truly are – which is not the outward appearance of what we imagine.
Remember, the shamans say there is no evil. The universe is not out to get us. For those who are getting sucked up on the conspiracy train – The government is not out to get us. It’s like the movie Maleficent. We want to think that there’s some evil monster in the tower who’s Angelina Jolie and she’s out to destroy us all. But that’s not the case – we know deep down that the universe isn’t maleficent by nature – it’s beneficent. Beneficent from the Latin Bene (well and good) and facere – to make do. The very nature of the Universe is self-organizing, self-correcting and action oriented, like the GPS in your car. And even if you make a wrong turn, the GPS in your car doesn’t get mad, it just redirects you very neutrally – this is the essence of the Universe.
And the universe will do as we do. So if we drive like a mad person, stressed, doing our makeup, drinking a cup of coffee, cutting our toenails, while preparing for a work presentation in rush hour traffic, we will be more likely to get into a car crash. The GPS (aka the Universe in this metaphor) cannot help you move along the path of destiny because the car has crashed. Instead, you get redirected to the hospital to heal. Then when you’re discharged, the GPS will show you new road signs and a new map to move towards where you’re going, probably a little bit slower than before because you had a detour to the hospital.
Every thought, every intention, every unconscious and conscious wish that you project out – is heard and boomeranged back to you. So your job right now to come into ayni – as this energetic being in a limited human body – is not to jump into the bandwagon of fear. Remember that you are a soul unbound and unfettered by the untruths being spouted from us, at us, all around us – And that everything is a story, a condition, and some permutation of the imprints of fear and envy. Only when you’re in direct relationship with that infinite intelligence that created you, call it God, Source, Wiracocha, Pachamama. Great Spirit, etc – can you come into ayni – a balanced relationship with not only yourself, but with everything around you.
A Shamanic perspective on freedom
What is freedom? During this post-covid world, it can feel like our freedoms are being challenged and people are up in arms about defending these freedoms. There is a lot of debate on how we should show up with what we choose to do with our own health, how to respond to harsh governmental policies, the economy, etc etc. This is my shamanic perspective. Now to get a wider understanding of freedom, it’s important to understand the energy of freedom from 4 different levels of consciousness.
The Q’ero shamans view the world from 4 different perspectives through the medicine wheel and the four cardinal directions. By viewing life this way, we are able to zoom in through a microscope or zoom out with a telescope.
The first perspective is connected to the archetypal energies of the South through Mother Serpent who is very much about the physical world. Serpent slithers belly to earth, sticking her tongue out to listen for threats in her physical environment. She has a heightened sense of awareness of the material world because she’s on guard.
When we look at freedom from a material perspective, we are looking at it from the understanding that freedom is about getting free from something. Like the American Declaration of Independence where it’s emphasized that the purpose of the nation is to uphold the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Now remember, when the 13 colonies fought for freedom, it was freedom from the British Empire – breaking free from an oppressive authority. This foundational understanding of Freedom is that freedom is breaking away from an external entity that is oppressing free will.
The second perspective is connected to the archetypal energies of the West through Sister Jaguar. Jaguar travels high up into the mountains, hunts along the rivers and plays deep in the swamplands which represents the different levels of consciousness. The mountains – representing our conscious and higher nature. The rivers – representing our subconscious emotional world and belief structures. Then the swamplands – representing the unconscious shadow within – this vast unknown potential that connects us to the collective dream. Carl Jung called this the unconscious collective – where our access points to gifts from past lifetimes and the wisdom of all of humanity is hidden.
When we contemplate freedom from this perspective, it is all about our beliefs and values around freedom. It’s the mind-feeling loop. You might start to create a pro and con sheet in your head as to what you gain and what you lose when you choose between sides. When we are trapped in the mind games of duality – we perceive that freedom is only black and white.
“You have to be either a capitalist or a communist, a religious devotee or a sacreligious heathen, Pro-life or pro-choice, pro-vax or anti-vax.”
But we know that on a higher level – there are more than two choices. Freedom isn’t a chess game with only black and white pieces. The jaguar perspective is about taking your inner hunter instinct and tracking deep into the unconscious shadow and the higher parts of self – to assess what actually is underlying your perception of freedom. It’s about digging into the origins of your beliefs.
Key word – belief. Beliefs are fickle. Beliefs are like clothes, you can change them as often as you’d like. And they will never be agreed on because like fashion, it’s subjective. You might think that by taking away my freedom to own a gun it’s better for the wellbeing of society, but I might see it as interfering with my family’s legacy of hunters who always had the freedom to bear arms . So in order for you – your idea of freedom is centered around a non-violent society, while my idea of freedom is centered around maintaining my family legacy.
All movements, civil rights movements, environmental movements, political movements, religious movements, all happen because there is so much conviction in a set of beliefs, that eventual conflict has to emerge. The jaguar perception of freedom is where most of our cultural and societal change takes place.
Now let’s look at the third perspective of freedom – which is connected to the archetypal energies of the North through Hummingbird. Hummingbird overcomes the limitations of fate and is the master of destiny. If you look at a hummingbird, they have these tiny wings that beat up to 90 times per second depending on the species. And they travel hundreds of miles on large migration patterns across South – Central and North America against all the odds. They have these tiny little wings and look like they weren’t designed to fly great distances ,but they do it anyway because the medicine of Hummingbird is all about saying, “yes I can” because a higher power moves through me.
So when we talk about freedom from this perspective, we are not looking at it from down in the jungle where Snake and Jaguar live. We are looking at it from a more zoomed out view.
We are looking at the big picture and surrender to the divine intelligence at play. We move away from the “this is what I believe” to it doesn’t matter what I believe anymore because my beliefs are a function of my ego wanting to preserve the familiar.
Hummingbird is here to help us break out of the karmic loop. Hummingbird understands that the trap of having to take a side keeps you trapped in the karmic washing machine. So hummingbirds’ definition of freedom is similar to the yogic concept of moksha – or the emancipation from suffering.
So then, the questions you ask about freedom will be less about what you believe freedom is. But rather, what difficult choices will you make to transcend the karmic loop of suffering? And that is freedom. This requires surrender. Surrendering all the statistical information, the logical reasoning that you’ve created in your mind, and crystallized in your emotional body as a stubborn, “It’s my way or the highway” energy. This has to dissolve. Because if it doesn’t, you stay caught in the spider’s web of duality down in the jungle with jaguar.
The freedom that Hummingbird is concerned with is about seeing the truth beyond the illusion. The yogis called it a leela, or the cosmic game that our souls have all elected to be a part of. And Hummingbird understands that our souls are all wearing temporary skins, playing a specific part in this big cosmic play. And when you approach freedom from that point of view – whatever choice you make is the right choice because it no longer comes from a place of fear, guilt or shame. You don’t have to defend your views on freedom because going on the defensive would continue to feed the karmic illusion.
The fourth perspective is connected to the archetypal energies of the east through Eagle. Eagle is the bridge. Eagle is the connector between the material realms and the higher realms – or the world of the invisible, the world of energy, the world of the inarticulable, the unknowable. Eagle is truly free because not only can they fly wherever they want – into the heights of the clouds, down to the rivers to hunt for salmon, Eagle is free because they have illumined vision. Not just vision into the future. But their vision can pierce through the pattern of Creation – the very nature of reality. They see that at the end of it all, everyone and everything will return to Spirit no matter what.
The understanding of freedom from this perspective is that there is no free will to consider because free will implies a separation from Source – that we are separate from source which is not true. In this level, to attain spiritual freedom – it’s what is known as making the choiceless choice. Because we are divinely perfect in all that we are, and a piece of the Divine lives within us, and we live within the Divine – all is perfect – even if seemingly it seems imperfect.
So freedom up here is very different from freedom in the jungle with Snake and Jaguar. The relative truths of a trigger happy gun supporter or a righteous anti-vaxxing martyr has no sway here. And also, in this level of perspective, there is harmony and union between the seemingly disparate and opposing sides. There is the understanding that each person is playing a uniquely divine part in the cosmic play, so all choices are right no matter how disastrous they may seem to be. Freedom from the level of eagle is the ultimate practice of compassion and embracing of polar opposite views. True freedom is the embrace of the paradox that there is no enemy out to trip us up – it just appears that way.
So with these Hummingbird and Eagle perspectives of freedom. The function of freedom is no longer about being released from some external force that holds us captive, because we see that the Spirit created me and Spirit also created what I am resisting. True freedom or moksha is realizing there is nothing to resist or fight.
Because the four directions of the medicine wheel are circular, and nonlinear,
we can bounce around from the various viewpoints. Some days you may pop down to Jaguar land and take up a cause and rally, and some days you’ll be in full surrender to the divine, and realize the silliness of the fight. We are not meant to stay static in one perspective. Nor are we meant to judge ourselves if we are stuck in one level of consciousness. All we need to do is simply bring awareness to where we are, and in doing so, we invite a shift into a different level of relating to ourselves and the events happening around us.
There isn’t a right way or a wrong way. And no perspective is better than the other, each serves their own function. It’s a matter of if you’re considering freedom from conditioned patterns of fear or a well rounded view on all the possibilities. So I invite you to consider what your relationship with what freedom is right now? Are you attached to certain ways of comfort and familiarity and are writing that off as defending your personal freedoms? Or are you willing to step beyond what you think you know, and allow the bigger picture to inform your decisions and ultimately for something new to emerge?